“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”
“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”
I sat with a man upon the edge of the abyss. I sat in silence, listening to the song of his soul. He listened. My feet dangled off into the darkness, my ears alive. We sat as immortal statues for forty years, listening. Then he whispered,
“Why do you sit on the edge of oblivion?”
Tears, or blood, fell from my eyes. He caught a drop and threw it into the abyss.
“Why do you sit here, my brother?” he asked again.
I told him I was dying.
“There is no death,” he replied.
“Then where are we?” I asked.
“We are here.”
“Where is God?”
“He is here.”
“At the bottom?”
“Perhaps. We won’t know until we go.”
“There is no down, only forward.”
So we dove, like tears falling from the face of an orphan, into the abyss. We fell into a storm. Lightning illuminated the fall in flashes. Clouds, dense, black, eyes, dense, black, silence. We fell into an ocean.
The ocean was black and tasted like angel sweat. The storm above us suddenly cleared. He and I alone in the black and salty ocean with midnight above us. Stars, moon, and the blue that breathes just before black covered our eyes. I looked up at the moon and I could see it as a sphere, getting larger. It was falling.
The moon fell on top of the man and me, pushing us for miles and miles until we reached an island. The island was made of shadow and light and sand and rock and men and women and song and silence.
Upon the sand we sat.
“Where are we?” I asked through sodden lips.
“We are here.”
“Is God here?”
“Can we speak to him?”
“We’ve been speaking to him.”
“Why is he silent?”
“He is never silent, you simply cannot hear him.”
“Why are we here?”
“But why are we here?”
“Because this is where we are.”
“Do you not know?”
“I know not, but I know why not.”
“Then why not-here?”
“Ask your self.”
So I asked my self, but my self was silent.
“Am I not my self?”
“Who are you?”
“I am me.”
“This island is strange,” I said, “there are people, and things, but no food.”
“Why do you say there is no food?”
“I see no trees, no animals.”
“Is that all food?”
“For humans, yes, that is food.”
“Then I think, my brother, you must expand your definition of human.”
“Are we in heaven?” I asked.
“Are you close to God?” he answered.
“How do I know?” I asked.
“You will know.”
“Then this is not Heaven.”
“You are right, this is not Heaven.”
“So this is Hell?”
“Not-Heaven is Hell.”
“But where is the fire, where is Satan, where is Sin, and Death, and torture?”
“There is no death.”
“If there is no death, then how are we in Hell?”
“Hell is simply not-Heaven.”
“Is not-Heaven not punishment enough?”
“I do not want to be in Hell.”
“Then let us leave.”
“But how can we leave?”
“By first standing up. After we stand, we must decide where we want to go. Once we’ve decided where, then we’ll discuss the how.”
So we stood, he and I, on the island beach of Hell, looking out onto the ocean, with men and women and song and silence behind us.
“Where shall we go?” he asked me.
“Let us go to heaven.”
“Where is heaven?”
“As you said, it is where you are close to God.”
“Not where, but when.”
“Can we be in Heaven in Hell?”
“We can be in Heaven wherever we are. We can be in Heaven when we are in Hell, and we can be in Hell when we are in Heaven.”
“But you said that Hell is not-Heaven. How can we be in Heaven and Hell at once?”
“Imagine you are a magnet. Heaven is constantly pulling you toward itself. When you are facing Heaven, you are in it, but if you turn away from it, you are not.”
“To enter Heaven, all we must do is face it?”
“You must face it, and get pulled toward it.”
“That does not sound as difficult as the books make it out to be.”
“That’s the problem with books, my brother. They take what is free, and imprison it. Never cage a lion, never tame the ocean, never harness the wind, never stop motion.”
“But how do we make sense of anything? How do we live? How do we control our lives?”
“You cannot control that which is inherently uncontrollable. You may slow it down, you may hold it for a time, but eventually, what moves will move, what is held will be dropped, what is caged will break free, and what is set will come apart. Humans have tried desperately to control their lives, break it into sections, subjects, time…these are all falsehoods. What has been will be, what will be has been, what is now is always.”
“But what of the after-life?”
“There is no after-life. There is only life.”
“But death is real. A man’s head may be chopped off. His heart stopped. His life, over.”
“What about sleep? When you see a man sleeping, is he not dead?”
“Of course not. He is breathing, his brain is working.”
“If you did not know that breathing was a sign of life, what would you think of the sleeping man?”
“The man was not moving, not speaking, not responding. I would think him dead.”
“Yes. Death is simply a term used to describe something from which we can no longer detect life. In the way that knowledge allowed us to understand that sleeping is not death, do you not think that we will eventually learn that death is not death? There are signs of life that we cannot understand or sense. There is no death my brother, only life.”
“I must ask you some things.”
“By all means.”
“What is a mosque?”
“A mosque is a place to worship the one God.”
“What is hijab?”
“Hijab is only modesty.”
“What is jihad?”
“Jihad is the struggle to turn toward heaven.”
“What is faith?”
“Faith is the belief that knowledge exceeds our capacity to contain it.”
“What is God?”
“The center from which we all dance.”
“What is art?”
“Our expression of God.”
“What is poetry?”
“Creation through destruction."
I pondered this for a moment. Then I looked at the man and told him that I wanted to face the Truth.
“I’m glad to hear it.”
“How do I do it?”
“Let me ask you a question.”
“Where are we?”
“We are here.”
“And what are we doing here?” he asked.
“We are sleeping,” I replied.
“Then, my brother, in order to face the Truth, Heaven, God, the Center, what must we do?”
“We must wake up.”
And we woke.